Ecuadoreans in New York March to Request TPS

Ecuadoreans demonstrated at 26 Federal Plaza to request TPS. (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

Ecuadoreans demonstrated at 26 Federal Plaza to request TPS (Photo by Mariela Lombard via El Diario)

It has been 10 years since Gabriela Paucar, 38, moved to the U.S. seeking a better life. The hairstylist is one of hundreds of Ecuadoreans who gathered in front of the offices of the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) at 26 Federal Plaza on Wednesday to request that Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Johnson grant Ecuadoreans the Temporary Protected Status (TPS).

“Being able to travel would be a dream come true for us,” said the Brooklyn resident as she held her 8-month-old son and an Ecuadorean flag. Her family was affected by the earthquake that struck the South American country in April. “I would leave immediately to see my 85-year-old grandmother and my mom,” she said.

An estimated 200,000 Ecuadoreans live in New York, 65,000 of whom would qualify for TPS. Wednesday’s demonstration was part of the TPS National Day of Action, during which Ecuadorean communities throughout the U.S. raised their voice to make the petition.

The TPS program was created as part of the Immigration Act of 1990 to allow foreigners coming from countries affected by natural disasters and other emergencies to obtain work authorizations, licenses and temporary protection against deportation inside the U.S. In the past, it has been granted for people from El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Haiti. [Last year, Nepalese in the U.S. received TPS two months after the earthquake that devastated their country on April 25.]

“Ecuadoreans living in my Jackson Heights-Elmhurst-Corona district have contributed so much to New York City, and we want them to continue to do so while Ecuador repairs the damages caused to their country,” said Council member Daniel Dromm.

In mid-May, Ecuador’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Guillaume Long requested the immigration relief from the U.S.

Consul General Linda Machuca attended the march, and said that the consulate received calls every day from anguished Ecuadoreans who have not been able to bury or help their loved ones.

“We Ecuadorean immigrants in the U.S. say: ‘We don’t just want to wait for this to pass. We want to mobilize. We want to go to Washington, D.C.’ We will talk to the authorities because we want to pressure them to approve the TPS for the Ecuadorean community,” said the diplomat.

After Machuca spoke, the demonstrators chanted: “We want TPS!”

A press release from the USCIS said that they are still consulting with the corresponding agencies to determine if they will approve the status. “The Department of Homeland Security is evaluating the impact of the earthquake and Ecuador’s recovery needs to determine if a discretional TPS designation under the law would be justified,” said a spokesperson.

Meanwhile, the agency is offering immigration relief measures to people affected by the quake.

“We are asking for a humanitarian act,” said Nelly Amaya, an undocumented Ecuadorean who lives on Long Island. She told the story of Ricardina García, a woman who saw her grandmother die in the earthquake and also lost her family’s home and business. “It wasn’t just one person affected, but all Ecuadoreans, who are facing emotional and financial distress because we have to look after our relatives across the country,” said Amaya, adding that there are many stories like García’s.

Watch out for scams

Ecuadorean lawyer Karla Rosero warned her compatriots to beware of scammers. “There are only a few agencies that have been authorized by the Board of Immigration Appeals,” she said. The attorney added that victims of fraud may report it to the district where the fraudulent organization or scammer is located.

On June 15, Rosero will participate in a legal workshop at the Consulate General of Ecuador in New York entitled “What is TPS, Temporary Protected Status?” The event will offer information on the status’ benefits and on how to avoid fraud.

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